The 2022-2023 NCAA wrestling competition schedule officially begins in just one week, and two Division I teams — Little Rock and The Citadel — will kick off the season with matches on Nov. 1 against Ouachita Baptist University and Queens University, respectively. These two duals will usher in a week of fun bouts, as a number of Top 25 teams from last season will be in action against non-conference foes. Here are the top three duals you won’t want to miss on opening week.
1. Appalachian State vs. N.C. State, Friday, Nov. 4, 7 p.m.
In front of what will likely be a loud and proud fanbase inside Reynolds Coliseum on Nov. 4, the N.C. State Wolfpack open their season against an in-state foe: Appalachian State. The Mountaineers pushed the Pack last year in a rowdy dual that ended with an N.C. State victory following individual Wolfpack wins from Jakob Camacho, Ryan Jack, Ed Scott, Hayden Hidlay, Trent Hidlay, Isaac Trumble and Deonte Wilson, though this year’s dual will likely look a little different. Hayden Hidlay and Wilson have moved on, but the Pack but managed to reload, with eight of their ten wrestlers earning Top 33 spots in the preseason rankings. N.C. State is favored to run away with this dual, but Mountaineers are gritty and will want to fight through the final weight.
App State will bring five Top 33 athletes to Raleigh, including All-American Jon Jon Millner who comes into the season ranked No. 6. Millner has been the face of the App State program throughout his career, finishing eighth in 2021 at 149 pounds and following that performance with a sixth-place finish in 2022. He’ll likely face an unranked N.C. State opponent in this opening dual, and he’ll need to secure bonus points in that bout if he wants to keep App State in contention before N.C. State unleashes its series of ranked athletes in the upper weights. The Mountaineers are favored in just one weight outside of 149 pounds, as No. 15 Will Formato will also likely face an unranked Wolfpack opponent and aim to start his season undefeated.
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The dual is scheduled to feature a total of three ranked matches including bouts at 125, 133 and 157, and App State has its best chance for upsets in the lighter of those three weights. At 125 pounds, N.C. State is expected to field No. 17 Jarrett Trombley who will be stepping in for Camacho, last year's starter, while Camacho recovers from an injury. Facing Trombley could be App State's No. 18 Caleb Smith, a 2022 NCAA qualifier who finished last season with a 24-8 record. Smith and Trombley have never met in collegiate competition, but if Smith can win this bout, he can help counter what could be a tough next few weight classes for the Mountaineers. N.C. State is favored at 133, 141 and 157, though No. 26 Sean Carter will be looking to push No. 12 Kai Orine at 133 in the same way that Smith will aspire to take down Trombley.
App State may not have as many advantages as N.C. State across these ten weights, but this is a team that shouldn't be ignored as the season continues. The Mountaineers are one of the best programs in the Southern Conference and are building a strong, solid lineup with the goal of having several All-Americans in March. While taking on a team like N.C. State on the road is never easy, this match is fun because both teams will have some challenging weights and have the opportunity to compete hard against a local competitor.
2. Oregon State vs. Lehigh, Saturday, Nov. 5, 12 p.m.
After finishing last season with four All-Americans and a notable 12th-place finish in the NCAA tournament, the Oregon State Beavers come into 2022-2023 with high expectations, but they’ll face an immediate test against traditional powerhouse Lehigh. These two teams have split their last four meetings, with Lehigh earning the last win 21-12. Oregon State, however, continues to be on an upward trajectory. Head coach Chris Pendleton has instilled a sense of confidence and pride in his athletes, and he’s looking forward, not backward. This Lehigh match is an ideal first-week opponent for the rising Beavers.
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The Mountain Hawks, who struggled last season and finished 25th at NCAAs, strengthened their lineup in the offseason and come into this bout with ten ranked wrestlers, led by No. 8 Michael Beard at 197 pounds. Beard began his career at Penn State and is the only former All-American in Lehigh’s starting lineup, though 157-pounder No. 9 Josh Humphreys has finished in the Blood Round twice. Unlike Beard, Humphreys is likely to face a ranked Oregon State opponent in this dual, creating a fun early-season challenge for the veteran Mountain Hawk. The Beavers are likely to field No. 28 Isaiah Crosby in this bout against Humphreys, and while these two have never met in collegiate competition, Humphreys pinned last year’s Oregon State starter at 157 pounds — All-American Hunter Willits — in the 2022 dual. The Mountain Hawk will be favored, and he’ll look to start his final season with a strong opening performance.
𝐌𝐄𝐄𝐓 𝐓𝐇𝐄 𝐓𝐄𝐀𝐌 - 𝐉𝐨𝐬𝐡 𝐇𝐮𝐦𝐩𝐡𝐫𝐞𝐲𝐬— Lehigh Wrestling (@LehighWrestling) October 18, 2022
The senior from West Virginia is a 2️⃣-time EIWA Champion, a 3️⃣-time NCAA qualifier and was a 2020 All-American. pic.twitter.com/N40Ox8bg46
While Lehigh will be favored in eight of the ten matches, Oregon State’s six ranked wrestlers do have a chance to make some noise. No. 7 Brandon Kaylor of Oregon State in particular will likely take on No. 21 Jaret Lane to open the dual at 125 pounds and give the Beavers the chance to build some early momentum, but the biggest bout of the night will likely come at 184 pounds as returning Round of 12 finisher Trey Munoz could take the mat for the Beavers against No. 14 Tate Samuelson of Lehigh. Samuelson, who transferred to Lehigh after four seasons at Wyoming, comes into the year with a 77-37 career record, though he’s lost both of his career matches against Munoz, both by a score of 3-2. Can the home mat advantage and potential improvements in the Lehigh room help propel Samuelson to a different result? Both of these athletes have come just short of the podium in their collegiate careers thus far, and this battle between two potential future All-Americans will be a great test. While the 184-pound match may bring the fireworks, this whole dual showcases top talent as both teams will bring an All-American and several NCAA qualifiers to the mat for a series of quality matches.
3. Iowa State vs. Wisconsin, Saturday, Nov. 5, 2022, 6:30 p.m.
Headlined by three All-Americans including David Carr, Younger Bastida and Marcus Coleman, the Cyclones will start the year with several interesting matches, including a bout against highly-ranked Wisconsin, a team that Iowa State has not wrestled in a dual since 2015.
This meeting is part of a multi-dual wrestling event titled Battle in the River City in which the Badgers and Cyclones will compete alongside Chattanooga, Campbell, Little Rock and Buffalo. The Cyclones are 2-0 against the Badgers overall, but Wisconsin will bring a loaded squad of its own to Jacksonville, Florida for what is sure to be an intense, competitive bout between these two ranked programs.
Wisconsin, much like Iowa State, finished the 2021-2022 wrestling season with a stellar dual record, winning 12 matches and dropping just two duals against Nebraska and Iowa. Head coach Chris Bono returns three All-Americans from 2022 as well, with No. 2 Austin Gomez leading the way at 149 pounds and teammates No. 6 Eric Barnett and No. 6 Dean Hamiti also holding high preseason rankings. No. 11 Trent Hillger at heavyweight and No. 13 Taylor LaMont at 133 pounds have also previously finished on the podium in an NCAA championship. All of these athletes will face ranked opponents against the Cyclones, as Barnett could meet No. 24 Kysen Terukina at 125 pounds, LaMont may compete against No. 19 Ramazan Attasauov, Gomez is set to wrestle No. 24 Paniro Johnson at 149 pounds, Hamiti will likely take on No. 3 David Carr at 165 pounds, and Hillger should meet No. 16 Sam Schuyler at heavyweight.
Up next pic.twitter.com/IirN7an966— Journeymen Wrestling (@jmenwrestling) October 4, 2022
The match at 165 pounds between Dean Hamiti and David Carr, however, is expected to be the main event of this dual, as Carr is bumping up to 165 pounds — a weight where Hamiti finished sixth last year — after winning the NCAA tournament in 2021 and earning third in 2022 at 157 pounds. Both of these athletes are long and fast, and while they’ve never met in college competition thus far, this match is highly anticipated and has the potential to be a true barn-burner. Hamiti ended last year with a 28-4 record that included eight pins, six techs and eight majors. He averaged a total of 12.7 points across his 20 matches that didn’t end in a pin or a loss, a stat that unquestionably demonstrates his offensive pace and power. Carr is similarly dominant, ending the year with a 28-1 record and averaging 10.95 points per match in those bouts that didn’t end in a loss or a pin. This match could very well be in a future NCAA finals match, though both of these athletes will have a tough schedule ahead of them this year as they compete in one of the deepest weight classes in the country.
In addition to the aforementioned ranked bouts, the Cyclones and the Badgers also have a potential key matchup at 197 pounds. Wisconsin’s 2021 junior world champion Braxton Amos will have a fun test ahead of him in No. 6 Yonger Bastida, a third-year sophomore who finished fifth last year after NCAA tournament wins over Jaron Smith, Kordell Norfleet, Jake Woodley, Greg Bulsak, Gavin Hoffman and Amos himself. Bastida beat Amos 3-2 in last year’s tournament in the first round to send Amos down the consolation bracket where he ultimately lost to Cameron Caffey in his wrestleback. Both of these young athletes could make jumps this year now that they’ve spent another season in their respective collegiate wrestling rooms, so look for this bout to be close again.
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On paper, the Badgers come into this dual with the advantage in six of the ten bouts, meaning one upset and bonus points could be in the difference in this early season challenge. Expect Wisconsin to push for an early lead in the first four bouts, as No. 6 Barnett, No. 13 Taylor LaMont, No. 12 Joe Zargo and No. 2 Gomez and No. 17 Garrett Model are all favored in the rankings at their respective weights. Gomez, in particular, has been known to look for big throws in his bouts, so he could be key for the Badgers as they head into the middle and upperwights where the advantage turns back to Iowa State. Carr will be key to the Cyclone’s momentum if he can stop Hamiti, and he’ll be followed by No. 24 Joel Devine and No. 5 Marcus Coleman at 174 and 184 respectively where Iowa State should be expected to rack up wins heading into the big bout at 197 pounds. Wisconsin’s No. 11 Trent Hillger will likely close out the match for the Badgers against No. 16 Schuyler, and he has historically been a key anchor for his team when they need him. Every weight in this match contains excitement, and some of these matchups have already generated great buzz. It’s a treat to see such elite non-conference duals so early in the season, so credit to Iowa State and Wisconsin for making this happen.